Military News

Monday, September 21, 2015

Table set to remember

by Senior Airman Deana Heitzman
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/18/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- "We call your attention to this small table, which occupies the place of dignity and honor," reads Tech. Sgt. Maurice Carbajal, 31st Communications Squadron knowledge management center NCO in charge, while members of the base honor guard sharply pop to attention.

When this line is read from the historic script, the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action table ceremony begins, kicking off Aviano Air Base's POW/MIA Remembrance Week.

"They are unable to be with their loved ones and families today, so we join together to pay a humble tribute to them," Carbajal continued with the script.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are 83,114 service members who are still unaccounted for since World War II. Across many military installations, attendees honor these service members by displaying a "missing man table" in dining facilities and during official ceremonies.

"This table symbolizes the fact that members of our Armed Forces are missing from our ranks. We call them POWs and MIAs," Carbajal continued.

During the ceremony, honor guard members presented symbolic items to those who are missing, while the narrator explained the meaning.

"The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they have shed to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America," Carbajal read.

With five different service hats placed on a round table draped in white, they are adorned with a single red rose, a bread plate with a salted lemon, an inverted glass and an empty chair.

"The slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt, when sprinkled onto the plate, reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait," Carabajal continued to read. "The glass is inverted--they cannot toast with us this day. The chair is empty--they are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home."

The ceremony ended with an excerpt for all the missing comrades to return to their ranks and their families.

"Seeing this table gave me the opportunity to honor not only those who are still missing, but the families who are still waiting for their loved ones to come home," said Carbajal. "I always tear up thinking about how my children would feel if they would constantly be waiting for me to come home."

Annually, the Air Force Sergeants Associations hosts various events leading up to National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in September. This year, Team Aviano came together with a memorial run, retreat and the table ceremony to remember fellow service members.

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